Osaka marks Italian Open return with first-round win

Naomi Osaka goes to strike the ball at the Italian Open
Naomi Osaka reached the quarter-finals of the Italian Open in 2019 [Getty Images]

Naomi Osaka beat France's Clara Burel in straight sets in the Italian Open first round on her first appearance at the tournament since 2021.

Former world number one Osaka won 7-6 (7-2) 6-1 against Burel, who is ranked 45th in the world.

It was Osaka's first win against a top-50 opponent on clay since beating Victoria Azarenka at the French Open in 2019.

The 26-year-old, who gave birth to her first daughter last year, will face 19th seed Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine in the second round on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Britain's Dan Evans will have to wait to take on Italy's Fabio Fognini in the men's competition after his first-round tie on Wednesday was cancelled due to inclement weather in Rome.

Japan's Osaka, now ranked at 173 in the world, finished the 84-minute match with 27 winners, including eight aces.

"I obviously played a lot better in the second set," she said.

"I'm hoping that when I play my match tomorrow, I'm able to learn from the mistakes that I did today and apply them better."